WhatsApp to bring subscription model to iOS this year

By , Mar 20, 2013

whatsapp iphone screenshot

WhatsApp, the popular cross-platform messaging service, is going to be bringing its subscription model to iOS this year, according to CEO Jan Koum. Koum recently spoke with a Dutch news outlet about the company’s near-term plans.

Currently, iOS users can download WhatsApp for a one-time fee of $0.99. In the new model though, which it already uses on other platforms like Android and Windows Phone, the app will be free, with users having to pay an annual fee…

TechCrunch points to Koum’s interview with Dutch journalist Alexander Klopping on Techtastic:

“The new subscription model would apply to new users, Koum said, and would likely follow the same pricing structure as its other apps, which are free for the first year and then cost $1/year, compared to the single, for-life $0.99 purchase that users make on iOS today. “We’re relaxed on dates, but definitely this year. It’s on the road map,” Koum said.”

WhatsApp is easily one of the most popular messaging services around, with a reported 17 billion messages transmitted everyday—some 7 billion inbound and 10 billion out. And it’s believed it has over 100 million users on Android alone.

Koum wouldn’t give a reason for why they’re moving to subscriptions, but it’s not a difficult one to figure out. Users download, on average, 15 free apps for every 1 paid app. Which route would you take while trying to grow a user base?

He also wouldn’t give a timeframe for the change outside of “this year,” but it looks like it’s going to be sooner than later. The phrase ‘Purchase Now’ for renewing iPhone subscriptions was found in WhatsApp’s crowdsourced translation site.

What are your thoughts on all of this? Good or bad move here?

  • Share:
  • Follow:
  • http://twitter.com/Makkiej Mark

    April fools? :D don’t like it, but tbh its still cheaper than text messages.. unless it’s included with your subscription plan. I guess iMessage will get a boost in usage.

  • Guest

    Good Move. They deserve more than $1/year.

    • http://twitter.com/rud0lf77 rud0lf77

      They don’t even deserve a cent from us iOS Users, we already paid to install. I don’t know how many people bought WhatsApp from the AppStore, but let’s say it were 10 Million, so 10 000 000 * 0.99$ / 100 * 70 = 6 930 000 US Dollars. The Developer Account at Apple costs just 99$ a year, the employees of WhatsApp Inc. definitely cost less than 2 Million a year. Let’s say they “just” have 4 000 000 left, so what do the servers cost? Let’s say 1000$ a month. That’s 12000$ a year. Let’s say we need servers for 10 Years. So we just have 3 880 000 left, that’s still a nice revenue, as they are getting money from Android Users already.

      • Dan

        They will probably give a year or two to people who bought the app in the past. It’s not really a big deal. Things change in time, if this is their new business model, we can either accept it or move away. Imo, complaining about 1$ a year is ridiculous.

        Also this is probably a way to protect themselves from piracy. There must be a large number or users who acquired the app illegally.

      • sambuzzlight

        and also as long as they dont display ads

      • iospixel

        If Ads come, I go. Im worried though, They have a userbase so large that any corporations investors would be putting the squeeze on the execs to deliver more revenue. That’s why we’ve seen this I guess.

      • http://twitter.com/EhabAlmoez Ehab AbdulSalam

        I agree with you they should make the subscriptions only for non ios users or even increase its price to the new ios users or apply the subscriptions on them

      • http://www.facebook.com/mark.ansari.5 Mark Ansari

        Android and other os users don’t need to pay anything… Whatsapp increases their expiry date everytime.

      • http://twitter.com/rud0lf77 rud0lf77

        Not anymore…

      • Neil Popson

        Ha. Nice one. They’re not gonna be moving over 500 billion messages, including audio and images, for $1000.

        Also, something worth noting: Their total revenue, assuming your numbers are right, would be $6.93M, not $3.88M. Now, take $6.93M and divide it by 4 to get their approximate yearly revenue: $1.73M.

        Now, they have employees over at WhatsApp Inc. They have a huge user base, so lets say they have 30 employees. They probably have a lot more. Let’s say the average pay at their company is $75K per year. That’s about $2.25M annual gone to the employees.

        Well would you look at that, suddenly their iOS “profit” has disappeared. And we haven’t accounted for the cost of the building they work in, all the computers and software they work on, or their server costs, among many other expenses.

        The thing about all these numbers is that they’re all completely innacurate and based completely on wild guesses. And we haven’t accounted for income from Android, Blackberry, Symbian, or Windows Phone.

        Bottom line: Let’s not make baseless assumptions with zero knowledge of their revenue or expenses.

      • Guest

        Hah, I only had to read your second and last sentence to know that you are a clueless retard, better listen to yourself and shut the fuck up if you have no knowledge.

      • Neil Popson

        Huh? Are you a jackass in real life too, or just on the internet?

        Insult throwing aside, maybe take a second out of your day, go to wikipedia, and lookup some basic economic terms such as revenue, profit, and expenses.

      • Guest

        I will if you lookup how to commit suicide and do it right after.

      • Neil Popson

        I don’t want to take on the legal risks of euthanasia. I’m sorry, but you will just have to look elsewhere.

  • http://twitter.com/myorangeisstuck wahaha

    By charging $1 per month, he will earn 12 times more as usual.. To him, this is a big catch, because to users, $1 is really affordable.

    • http://www.facebook.com/liamsagooch Liam Googolplex Merlyn

      That’s the great thing. On the business side, money needs to be made. So all these companies that charge $10+ per year are losing out because not as many people can/won’t pay that as opposed to this at the same price as a chocolate bar.

    • Dan

      1$ per year

  • Mohammed Sahib

    What’s wrong with viber, message me and tango? All free.

    • http://twitter.com/nmPraveen Praveen

      Viber, Skype and all other free services are free because they dont know a efficient way to make money. Free is actually their selling point. The moment you see a price tag on Viber, people just move on to whatsapp because it has larger user base. Thing about whatsapp is that it went into game early and thus acquired large user base and now making a good amount.

      Though I don’t mind spending 1$/ year for unlimited texts and group chats for whatsapp, I would still prefer a better alternative if they are providing for free like iMessage or upcoming Google’s messenger.

      • Mohammed Sahib

        In my country, viber is the most popular, and it is where I can find almost all my friends with smartphones.

      • iospixel

        I wish Viber was taken up more for its VOIP calls. In certain buldings and areas I have a WiFi connection but poor cell signal making audio drops certain, especially overseas calls.

  • Mark

    1$ per year for all the money it saves me in international text charges etc is well worth it!!!

    • m3nphls

      So they should start charging android and blackberry users as well huh?

      • http://www.facebook.com/ansararif94 Ansar Arif

        They already do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/liamsagooch Liam Googolplex Merlyn

    At first glance, I thought everyone would hate this subscription-based service, but for one measly dollar, I don’t see how anyone can complain at that. I get unlimited texts so WhatsApp doesn’t really save me money but I’d happily pay since I use it more than standard SMS.

    • Emre SUMENGEN

      Ok, 1$ is not a big deal, but the philosophy behind is really problematic.

      Assume Microsoft to announce that they will be charging you with a subscription requirement, even after you buy the OS… Wouldn’t that be something to compain about?

      I know it says “it will only be for new users” in the article, but we can only be sure when it goes live.

      And, for me, even a cent more is too much, as there are trillions of alternatives out there. And, Google Talk / MSN is the most widely adopted chat platforms, so I’d switch to IMO and use Google Talk immediately. If not, there’s always Viber, iMessage and others.

  • maverickmax

    :(

  • http://twitter.com/DvdGman David Gitman

    so if i bought it already, i need to pay 1$ every year?

    • Damian W

      or more, but only for new users. So I guess existing users have nothing to worry.

      • http://twitter.com/DvdGman David Gitman

        I hope so..Its not about paying 1$
        Why should I pay more if I already bought the app?

  • s0me

    i can live without it, Viber is already waiting in a folder to replace Whatsapp after the sub thing

  • patrick

    It’s not About the money, it’s About sending a message

    • http://twitter.com/manoj91 manoj91

      Patrick u r right. But why so serious?

  • Roy Chdid

    Greed

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ryan-Pettovello/100000965228356 Ryan Pettovello

      You’re such a cheapskate. 1$ per year isn’t really worth quibbling over.

  • Jeffrey Yeo

    The CEO said “The new subscription model would apply to new users”….
    so those existing users will not be affected by the subscription…… no?

    • http://twitter.com/ningamoh mohamed ahmed

      yay

  • sambuzzlight

    worth it

    • Emre SUMENGEN

      Although it’s a good app, I don’t think I’d pay another dime for it :)

      But, we’ll see how their service plans come up.

  • Ray V

    According to the article this only applies to new users so I wouldn’t be upset since most people already have the app. It still leaves me wondering why on my mom’s Blackberry it was already mentioning this subscription based model even though she is an old user. Maybe the new user deal is only for iOS but that seems silly to me.

  • http://twitter.com/burlow burlow

    I doubt their reasons for going this route are to grow their install base.

    this is, at its heart, a money grab. 100 million users is $100 million and that’s it.
    The other option is to continuing to make that every year.
    Seems obvious now.

    • Emre SUMENGEN

      Absolutely… Very greedy :(

      • Ignacio Irigoyen

        I agree it is about making money (the bastards refuse to work for free, how dare they). But I would not go as far as to say “Greedy” $1 a year seems to me like a very, very reasonable fee for unlimited messages.

        I’m sure I would waste a lot more money (A LOT MORE) using my carrier fees.

      • Emre SUMENGEN

        Correct, in terms of comparison to carrier SMS charges, but there are LOTS of totally-free alternatives. And, whatsapp is NOT providing you free messaging. You still pay for data.

        And, for millions of users, $1/year is actually a VERY BIG amount.

        Third, I’m saying greedy (again), because, I’ve already paid for the app. If it was a model of free-app and subscription-based service from the beginning, Whatsapp would never be this popular. IMO, they are just trying to squeeze more out of what they already have. (Trying to get more without providing more, is the definition of greed.)

        But, again, let’s wait and see what type of subscription model they will bring, what will happen to existing users (free forever, or free for a year or two?), and then we’ll either keep using or push charges (I’m sure someone in US will file a suit).

      • David Villamizar

        The whole idea behind WhatsApp is to provide a service that is totally private, they won’t sell your personal information, they don’t monetize with your private data, data is just as safely encrypted as it would be in BBM, they just ask for 1 dollar per account, I don’t find that to be bad at all, plus I found that to restart the year, you just need to reinstall in Blackberry(Don’t know about other platforms).

      • Emre SUMENGEN

        What you say is very nice and possibly logical.

        But still, IF they try to charge me a penny more for something that I’ve already paid for, I’ll move on.

        And, for me, comparing to what other apps or other platforms are doing is not very healthy.

      • David Villamizar

        If you already paid for it, isn’t it supposed to be free? I mean, they say the new subscription model is for new users.

      • Guest

        “The new subscription model would apply to new users”
        If you need further explanation, don’t refrain to ask.

      • Emre SUMENGEN

        I don’t need further explanation. I’ve just written “But, again, let’s wait and see what type of subscription model they will bring”.

        I don’t like speculation, and I don’t like marketing words. I’ll wait and see the move, and I’ll either stay or move away.

        I believe, that’s what everyone should do.

      • wi77iam

        Your argument doesn’t make too much sense, because when whattsapp was released on iPhone there was no possibility for subscription based services – so the only way to go was charging the 99cents once.

        On Android it’s already a one year subscription service and do people complain?
        This just 99cents A YEAR! In the past I’ve had that much for ONLY 4 SMS over my phone carrier.
        And ANYBODY who can’t afford that dollar a year – wonder how they bought an iPhone in the first place and on what kind of contract they’re running it.
        Just doesn’t make much sense to me.

      • Emre SUMENGEN

        It doesn’t matter what was available when they launched. They did launch within those circumstances, and they SOLD products.

        It doesn’t matter what I can afford, it’s NOONE’s business, but me. What matters is that, I’m not going to spend my hard earned money (a little amount or not), to the same thing that I’ve already paid for.

        And, it (again) doesn’t matter what type of service (or app, for that matter) they provide on Android, or Windows Mobile or whatever. I’m not using an Android phone. I do NOT care what they are doing there… And, I don’t have to care.

        Simple…

    • http://www.facebook.com/DjSkyXII Manuel Pedregal Ballesteros

      Still would pay it have never used and app for my iphone so much + you dont have to deal with any kind of ads inside of the app so im preety sure its well worth it

    • Dan

      How dare a company that provides a much appreciated service try to make profit… Totally unjustified.. and the cost… 1 dollar… damn them all to hell.

      • http://twitter.com/burlow burlow

        My point was to clarify, this wasn’t a “let’s grow our userbase”, this was “hey we have hundreds of millions of users, that’s potentially hundreds of millions of dollars a year we could get”.

        and they are already making a profit each time someone buys the app.

        hey, I’d do the same thing in their shoes. Let’s not confuse motives.

      • Dan

        I concur :)

    • iospixel

      This may be there downfall….Hear me out!

      This opens up the market for a truly free alternative. Googles “Babble” anyone?

      I mean think about it – Im sure Google would offer “babble” to iOS users for free, its an opportunity to trump Apple (Maps!) and its native iMessage.

      Furthermore its likely that all new android handsets would ship with it, and its availability on the Play Store is certain.

      So that leaves RIM and its Blackberry’s. Will anyone bother with the new OS? I cant see them coding an app for the older OS so that the only real barrier.

  • http://twitter.com/aomia syler

    I use kik. Either way it goes these apps use your data to send the message So your kinda already paying to use the app in some way

  • m3nphls

    Lame how they charge iOS users and other OS is free LOL

    • seyss

      are you retarded?

      • m3nphls

        You mom is retarded

  • http://twitter.com/iPod_touch Jordan Dixon

    $1? Really? People complaining must really be strapped for cash.

  • felixtaf

    “The new subscription model would apply to new users” – Means I dnt have to subscribe, if I paid it already?

    • http://www.facebook.com/liamsagooch Liam Googolplex Merlyn

      That’s correct. If you’re already a registered user, you don’t have to pay for a subscription, unless of course to change your phone number.

  • Jerry

    my question is why US iOS users had to pay .99$ from the start and everyone else got it free?

    • bloodshed

      i live in kuala lumpur and i had to pay for it. i still got it free on my US account :), it was an offer for a day.

  • Latrese

    I only have one friend on whatsapp and so even if the subscription did affect me I just wouldn’t use the app. That’s why I have unlimited texting :/

  • bloodshed

    screw whatsapp, who uses it anyways.

  • https://twitter.com/MrElectrifyer MrElectrifyer

    I hear Viber calling for my text messages….

  • http://twitter.com/reloadedhead Tom García

    So, everyone should buy WhatsApp now

  • http://twitter.com/andykan Andy Kan

    The fact that users tend to download free app more willingly will definitely increase their user base which will really benefit them. And of course to standardise payment or subscription fee throughout all platforms. But since they are deciding not to implement this subscription model to existing iOS users, I guess money really isn’t the real reason their doing this. I hope I make sense here.

  • Miras safadi

    It’s a bad idea because, well, most people won’t pay $1 annually because they are afraid of online payments (they would download a pirated version of whatsapp).. That applies to most people i know!

  • Mohamod Uddin

    Why are you people complaining about a dollar a year? Are you people that broke, wow its not hard to understand that their team is growing and need to be paid. In all fairness if they really wanted to profit they could easily charge 1 dollar a month, or even 5 dollars a year, maybe 10 or 20, now that would be a bitch movement. 1 dollar for unlimited messages anytime and anywhere in the world is very fair, considering they have given me a free trial of well over 2 years now.

  • http://www.halosystechnologies.com/iphone-application-development Alina Clark

    Meh, I’d rather have the free model personally. Ads don’t really bother
    me either. Still, a fee that low isn’t bad at all for a ad-free service.